10 Developer practices that can help enhance app security manifolds
Future envisioning individuals including entrepreneurs, business leaders amongst others painstakingly think of an idea. They tend to do all the hard work, gain requisite permissions and technologies and develop an app through app development companies or individual developers; only to be some day hacked by some unscrupulous hackers. The numbers of these hackers and their tools are sadly increasing by the day.
Successful Mobile App development requires well executed and compounded UI/UX, backend, frontend and other usability based platform services. Their development inculcates time and efforts from both the app owners as well as the app developers and funds for apps from the owners side. Moreover, a smartphone entry gained through one smartphone app can be utilized by hackers to hack other mobile apps of the user, wherein banking and other payment platform apps tend to be targeted.
These simple mobile app security hacks for app developers can help keep these apps safe to a great extent:
Just like app development companies, hackers too are mostly ardent code developers and writers. A common trick of theirs to target app security includes looking for code vulnerabilities using appropriate malware and then uploading their version of hacked code forms of famous mobile apps. They create mobile applications that are exact replicas of the originals, well repacked with virus and trojans; which when uploaded into the smartphones of the unsuspecting users tend to open up the device easily for the hawk-eyed hackers. This is also called reverse engineering of app code.
To put an end to these kinds of unscrupulous tactics and for mobile application security, writing encrypted and a well hidden code is a must. A secured code is a well encrypted hard code written by the app developers to ensure that the malware is unable to find vulnerabilities in the code to enable its easy duplication by the hackers.
Use of third party libraries and other apps pose a great risk of security for mobile apps.
These days, most of the code is not directly written by app developers. They are in fact, included within the app using already existing platforms and their functionalities. There are already existing libraries and API’s (especially in androids) that can help developers enable a certain utility within an app through a simple linkage or its inclusion. But, these libraries are often open sourced and open coded, giving free area to hackers to play around.
When these libraries are inculcated within the code of a mobile app, it gives a window to the hackers to access code and find its loopholes, causing a great danger to your apps security. Thus, when an app developer decides to make an app, he or she should try and devise a code plan wherein, third party libraries could be avoided wherever possible.
This rule regularly features amongst the mobile app security best practices. As a code development practice, app developers should practice encryption for all the user data to be collected, to ensure that the unethical data retrievers and onlookers are unable to access it easily.
Since user data is the one of the most precious and vulnerable assets of digital space; it needs to be well protected. Encryption means converting the data into another coded form of data that can only be accessed and read by using the decryption key. Since the hackers would be unable to read data, even if it is stolen; using algorithms to encrypt it will ensure security for apps and its users even after app deployment and utilization.
Constant and agile testing also feature amongst the mobile app security best practices. New app developments, new libraries and synchronization of technologies may create loopholes within the app architecture, which can be unethically utilized by hackers. Time-to-time testing of app codes, API’s and libraries are thus a vital step to be taken by developers for mobile application security.
This goes without saying, but the issue is creating one without irking the user. The login screen is a very important feature for an app developer to promote the user numbers. Thus, if it asks too many questions or requires complex forms to fill in to authenticate the user, chances are more than not of the mobile apps losing user interest. This best mobile security apps feature, could thus lead to failure of the app as well. It is, in fact, one of the most obvious UI/UX mistakes for a mobile app.
Strong password combinations (including capital and small alphabets, numericals and special signs) and their regular updation is one of the most worthwhile mobile security best practices that can be enabled by an app developer, and then followed by the app users. Updation of user names is also recommended.
As per a Telesign report, app developers and owners trust in passwords is reducing by the day. In fact, most companies plan to do away with them completely. Utilization of multilayer authentications, including knowledge based authentication and behavioral biometrics related security feature developments to ensure apps security, are on the rise.
But, Strong usernames and password creations are still regularly utilized as a mobile development best practices by the app developers worldwide. What you need to remember herein is that the user will have and will need to operate several such apps. Remembering so many password and username combinations is another tedious task. The app developer may thus recommend the best mobile security apps to the users that could help them store these password combinations effectively and autofill requirements as and when required.
Hackers can actually break into any device. One of the mobile app security best practices includes signing the app by the app developers with their signing certificates and then periodically checking within their app modules to enumerate any changes in the app made by a visitor. This helps the app developer to easily find and then replace code tamperings with the minimum amount of damage. For this, the app developers may maintain a code change log, wherein all the made changes are stored for work analysis as well as testing as and when required. The above stated signature certificates also help app developers to ensure security for mobile apps by informing an app developer when an unethical hacker tries to change code or find their way through an unauthorised APK; as the signature certificate gets ‘broken’.
Data, Code, Files, Database, basically everything needs to be protected as a mobile security apps practise. But, the most important question for an app developer is how to do it well? There are various encryption technologies like hashing, symmetric encryption and asymmetric keys encryption, amongst others that can help in this aspect of code development.
Installing hashing and symmetric encryption keys may still be easier for the developers, but the level of protection they provide is then again weaker than the asymmetric encryption methodology, wherein a key is at least 2048 bit long and is used in combinations with one ket being public and freely available on the network and the other being stored only on the server.
But, these keys take longer to get installed. To enhance apps security, most mobile apps use a combination of the symmetric and asymmetric keys these days. Usage of latest encryption methods like AES with 512-bit encryption, 256-bit encryption & SHA-256 for hashing, is a must for quality app developers these days.
Pen testing or rather penetration testing can easily help app developers remove potential security risks and vulnerabilities from a mobile app code by themselves trying to hack in the mobile app first. Hackers are mostly technology geeks and ad hoc coders. Being devil’s advocate, this system of application testing simulates the developer to strategize a testing plan that they think the hackers could use to find loopholes and gain rights within the code. This includes testing each vertical of the app microscopically for all kinds of possible intrusions as well as the ‘backdoors’. Also to ensure security for mobile apps code; this testing should be done in a time bound manner. In fact, for pen testing of iOS based mobile apps you could use the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) developed Mobile Security Testing Guide or the iOS cheat sheet as it is famously called, for best mobile security app inclusions and their vulnerabilities
Mobile Apps generally have longer work sessions, than a laptop as they tend to provide a dedicated set of services and functionalities. Thus, as a necessary apps security feature, app developers should herein code to ensure smaller session sizes with proper logons and logoffs. Even the data retrieved in these sessions should be set to wipe off the servers over a set period of time, with appropriate tokens instead of simple identifiers. Long standing data and its access for the hackers and their software shall thus, not be possible.
In today’s digital age, wherein mostly all lifestyle and utility services like banking, retails, marketing, etc. are happening in the mobile world, mobile app security is vital. It has been noted that iOS with its cheat sheet and stringent security features and checks for apps security enables a safer platform for mobile app deployments. But, ‘jailbreaking’ (privilege escalation that allows the user to remove software restrictions that make iOS vulnerable) is possible there too. Since, android developments are more open sourced, they are open for more hack threats as well. Though not completely full-proof, the above list of mobile security best practices help app developers create a safer mobile app development, deployment and usage environment.
This blog features various common mistakes to avoid and some simple tips, in order to improve and get a better mobile Ui/Ux design for your app.